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Manage a PR Crisis Before it Happens

Manage a PR Crisis Before it Happens

Yes, that sounds like a nearly impossible task, but only if you made sure the gate was closed AFTER the cattle got loose. There would have been no crisis if there was a plan in place and always followed to keep the gate firmly latched. That’s what PR crisis management should be about.

As an example, recently several U.S. companies have taken advantage of a tax code opportunity called a “tax inversion.” The U.S. company merges with a foreign company that has headquarters in a location where corporate taxes are much lower – in this case, it’s Ireland with a 12.5% corporate tax as opposed to a 39%-ish one in the States.

Under the Radar Thinking

They made this move quietly thinking to slide under the radar, but that’s not what happened. In fact, if you are making any move thinking “we’ll be quiet and slide under the radar,” start rethinking your strategy. You’re well on your way to a PR crisis if you continue. That’s what happened with those companies, their competitors and others immediately hit the news using harsh language and getting their jabs in first. So these firms were on the defensive, and any reasons they gave were received with suspicion and skepticism.

What they should have done, and what you should do if you have that “under the radar” thought, look at a way to announce it before you make the move and share all the great advantages to be found because of your decision. In the case of those using the tax inversion, they could have easily shared that lower outlay on taxes means better pay and benefits for employees, lower costs on products to the customer, and higher profits for stockholders. What became a crisis could have so easily started as a PR windfall. Why didn’t it?

As the Washington Times reported, “Businesses that hunker down and hope the bad public-relations storm will pass are the ones whose roofs are ripped off. Why don’t we see more aggressive positioning? Mostly because company staffing is built around the development and delivery of a product or service. A dedicated staff to anticipate and quickly defuse attacks on the brand or the mission is rare.”

Create a Crisis Management Plan

When making a change, plan for the PR. But also, look at your business. Look at what crises your competitors have gone through, look at your people and start planning for the possibilities. Prepare some press release templates covering the various possibilities and leave the detail spaces blank. That gives you something to start from immediately if the worst happens. But in all cases, make sure you get your spin on things with the positives out quickly, ahead of the haters when it is a business decision you’ve made.

If you don’t have people in-house for that, talk with a specialist and pay the money to get a working plan in place. Think of it as an investment or insurance. But no matter what else you do, make sure your people who know how to market and brand your product and service continue to have a job by covering the bases when it comes to crisis management.

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